Monday, February 28, 2005

Putting a Finer Point on It

I see Lazer's Land is too long for some people, so let's boil down the old thoughts and add some new ones:

Lazer Brody wrote a letter to a correspondent who asked him for historical proof of the Torah. In his answer Lazer:

1 - Provided a proof from the torah itself. We call this: Begging the question.

2 - Demonstrated ignorance of Nach. He argued that three times per year, during the life of the first Temple, all Jews reported to Jerusalem at festival time, leaving the borders unprotected.

Unfortunately, the Book of Kings is clear: The Northern Kingdom as a whole gave up the pilgrimage festivals a good 400 or so years before the destruction; the Southern Kingdom was led, usually, by idolatry-loving Kings who had no use for God or his holidays; and the people, for the most part, were sinners who ignored God, and his festivals. Given this description, I rather doubt that any borders were left unprotected.

3 - Demonstrated ignorance of the Second Temple Period. Lazer also argued that three times per year, during the life of the Second Temple, armies were recalled, leaving the borders unprotected.

Unfortunately, the Second Temple Kings were largely corrupt, and largely Hellenized. Many had Greek names, tolerated High Priests who weren't, in fact, priests, and demonstrated an indifference to God that was protested by the people and decried by the Rabbis. Do these sound like men who would trust a divine promise and abandon their borders?

4 - Demonstrated ignorance of the military tactics of antiquity.Though he has nothing in the way of evidence to prove it, Lazer believes that a foreign army never attacked Israel or Judea at holiday time. And he thinks this is remarkable.

Unfortunately, it isn't. Ancient campaigns were launched in the late Spring, when the weather was good, and when food was easier to find. An ancient army marching in winter would quickly starve, or freeze. Therefore, almost all ancient campaigns began after Passover, and by the end of the summer, ancient armies werer almost always settling in for the winter. Based on this, my gut tells me, that it's unlikely that any ancient country -divine promise or not - was attacked at Passover or Sukkot.

5 - Demonstrated ignorance of the archeological record. It's true that Kings tells us that the Assyrian army was miraculously annihilated in one night; unfortunately the archeological record reveals that the Assyirans told a different story. I'm not equipped to judge between the Assyrian account and the Jewish account; indeed, I'd like to believe the Jewish account. Lazer's correspondent, however, asked, not for biblical proof, but for historical proof. By ignoring the existence of competing accounts, Lazer undermines his reply.

Perhaps later on, I'll take a chance at answering the question Lazer received by myself. In the meantime, your thoughts, comments and counter-arguments are welcome.